The Nazi Ties Of Luxury Brand Baccarat

Rene Bousquet, director of Baccarat until 1991, posing in fur trimmed coat with Nazi German officials in 1943. Vennemann, Wolfgang / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE , via Wikimedia Commons.

When I received a cease and desist letter from the multi-million dollar luxury brand Baccarat asking me to shut down my twelve year old art studio Black Baccara, I was shocked. They were citing “likelihood of confusion” between me, a minority owned, LGBTQ owned small business that makes eclectic handmade items, and a luxury brand that makes crystal. I wanted to find out more about the brand and started researching the company. In my search, I found that the early to mid 1940s was not accounted for in the public history of the company website.

In my research I found that Baccarat collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation of France in world war two, keeping alleged Nazi collaborators in the upper echelons of the company until as recently as 1992. They crafted many items for the Vichy regime, which was responsible for the deportation of French Jews to German concentration camps. Through exhaustive research of publicly available information, I was able to compile a troubling timeline of the company’s history from WWII through as recently as 2020, when the brand was forced to pay $100,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit for race, sexual orientation, and disability harassment.

Founded in 1764, Baccarat is one of Europe’s oldest purveyors of luxury crystal, with products ranging from chandeliers to champagne glasses. Through their subsidiaries, the company also owns a suite of bars, hotels, and museums. They recently gained renewed notoriety for the perfume Baccarat Rouge 540. In 2020, A fund group led by Tor Investment Management, a private alternative credit fund based in Hong Kong, took control of Baccarat owner Fortune Legend Ltd.

Connections to alleged Nazi collaborators and the production of crystal carved with symbols from the Vichy regime in honor of notorious Nazi figures indicate that the Baccarat company actively supported the Vichy regime led by Marshal Philippe Pétain and profited from their business transactions with Nazi figureheads.

Auction results show that Baccarat produced deluxe items for Marshal Pétain, including several paperweights and glass sets depicting the Francisque symbol, the personal symbol of Marshal Pétain, which was eventually used on documents as the coat of arms of the Vichy regime. Aristide Colotte, a glassmaker for both Baccarat and the Vichy Government, made a sword for Marshal Petain as well. Archival footage from 1942, shows the process of the sword being crafted at the Baccarat crystal factory. The artist was accused of having harmed national defense for supporting Petain and was fined and sentenced to prison.

In a 2018 affidavit former CEO of the company Daniella Riccardi stated that in 1940, The Baccarat glassworks was occupied by German troops, all Baccarat employees were expelled, and German troops transformed the factory into a P.O.W. camp, serving as home to 25,000 prisoners. Control of the factory eventually returned to the employees. The few internet records that can be found on the Baccarat camp indicate that it was a Durchgangslager (Dulag for short). Dulags were transit camps where Jews and captured opponents of the Nazi regime were interned before being deported to concentration camps.

In 1943, Baccarat produced a large crystal carafe for Hermann Goring to celebrate his 50th birthday, on the last major social event of the Third Reich. Goring was the highest-ranking Nazi official tried during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and was responsible for leading the economic despoliation of the Jews in Germany and other territories. Auction results show several crystal items crafted by Baccarat for the birthday event, engraved with the Goring family coat of arms.

I also discovered that there were two alleged Nazi collaborators in the top echelons of the company until the early 1990s. An alleged Nazi collaborator René Bousquet, indicted for crimes against humanity in 1991, was a director of Baccarat at the time of his indictment. Bousquet was indicted for his decisions during the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942, which led to Jewish children being deported and killed in German extermination camps in Eastern Europe.

Another alleged Nazi collaborator, René Chambrun, was the company chairman of Baccarat until 1992. His godfather was Marshal Pétain, head of the Vichy regime, and his father-in-law was Vichy prime minister Pierre Laval, to whom he served as legal counsel, remaining a staunch apologist for Laval and his policies throughout his life. Chambrun also served as legal counsel to Coco Chanel in her lawsuit against Pierre Wertheimer.

As I moved further ahead in time, these items weren’t just relegated to world war two. Baccarat was producing paperweights honoring fascists as late as the 1970s, during which time they released a limited edition paperweight portraying Pierre Laval. They also created a paperweight in confederate gray commemorating Robert E. Lee and the United States Confederacy as well as multiple Napoleonic eagles. Baccarat has also had lawsuits against them for racial discrimination as recently as 1999 and 2020 (See Rivera v. Baccarat, Inc., and EEOC v. Baccarat, Inc).

I’m shocked that they have flown under the radar all of these years, even as they kept alleged collaborators in their company until the 90s. The histories of other brands such as Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel during Vichy have all been brought to light over the years. Baccarat was able to successfully stay under the radar.

It seems they would still like to brush their history under the rug. For weeks now, Baccarat has been deleting hundreds of comments flooding their Instagram page asking them about their Nazi history and history of racial discrimination lawsuits. They are deleting the comments almost as fast as they come in. When an edit to their Wikipedia page was made to update it with information and citations regarding their support of Vichy, someone immediately signed on and deleted all of the information. The editor was quickly banned from Wikipedia and the information was reinstated.

I am currently trying to defend my small, minority-owned, LGBTQ-owned business against threats by Baccarat to my art studio if I don’t stop using the name Black Baccara, a name I have had for twelve years, which signifies a black rose. When I found out what they stand for and how they have gone all this time without having to answer to their history, it made me even angrier. I will not let a company like this destroy my livelihood. A petition calling on them to stop bullying me now has over 11,000 signatures.

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Visual and olfactory artist, writer, poet, and activist.

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Kalliope Amorphous

Kalliope Amorphous

Visual and olfactory artist, writer, poet, and activist.

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